By Tim Hunt
Remaking Bishop Ranch Business Park into a mixed-use communityUploaded: Sep 10, 2019
City Center at Bishop Ranch in San Ramon makes more sense than ever after Sunset Development Co. released plans to remake the business park into a mixed-use project.
Since its establishment in the early 1980s, Sunset has avoided residential development. The office park provided the impetus for major residential projects such as Canyon Lakes in the hills east of the park as well as the Shapell Homes and Windemere projects in the Dougherty Valley further east.
The developers, who own most of the buildings, have favored office uses with few exceptions—the land sales to UPS and Toyota for warehouse/distribution operations early in the park’s development and then the retail center where they had originally hoped to attract a Macys and instead got Whole Foods and Target.
Bishop Ranch took off once Pacific Bell developed its million-square-feet and Chevron bought Chevron Park on the southern edge. Demonstrating that nothing ever stays the same, PacBell was merged in AT&T which then sold the 2600 Camino Ramon back to Sunset. It’s still home to AT&T, GE Digital and other major firms as well as Sunset’s offices. There’s a total of more than 10 million square feet of space in the 585-acre development.
City Center, with its mix of dining, entertainment, fitness club and upscale retail, was designed as place to visit frequently. The $300 million, 300,000-square-foot facility now sets the stage for the residential development. More than 30,000 people work in Bishop Ranch.
With plans now for 4,500 multi-family residential units released for public comment, the broader vsion for Bishop Ranch becomes clearer. The press release anticipates the plan will create a pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use community where workers can live close to their jobs. For perspective, the city of about 76,000 residents now has 25,044 dwelling units. This would add 18 percent to the housing stock—a major boost in these days of rampant housing shortages and do so in the middle of the business park.
If the plan is approved at 4,500 units, it would potentially house as many as 10,000 people.
Unlike some transit-oriented development (Pleasanton and Dublin) where buildings are clustered next to the BART station encouraging out-commutes, these units will be a bus ride or car ride from a BART station, although Bishop Ranch does offer a myriad of transportation alternatives other than cars.
As mentioned, it will be a sea change for the business park where 30,000 people work at more than 600 companies including the aforementioned Chevron, AT&T, Toyota, as well as PG&E, GE Digital, SAP, BlackBerry, Bank of the West and Rodan + Fields.
The vision is one cast by Alex (Bo) Mehran Jr., now the CEO and president of Sunset. His father, Alex Sr., guided the development for more than 40 years and now serves as chairman of the board. Bo pushed for City Center and now adding the residential to the park. What’s unusual for the Tri-Valley is the plan calls for all multi-family, high-density units.
Moving business parks to mixed use in the valley is nothing new. The 860-acre Hacienda Business Park in Pleasanton, during the ups downs of the economic cycle, added housing several times along the way. Some neighborhoods were zero-lot line single-family homes, while others were condominiums or apartments. Most recently, it was four new multi-family complexes after the city rezoned land and cleared the way for expedited approvals. Those include two complexes near the eastern BART station as well as two along West Las Positas Blvd.
James Paxson, general manager of the Hacienda owner’s association, reported that there are 2,300 built units within the boundaries plus another 305 that have been approved but not started. Current zoning would allow for another 693 units bringing it more than 3,300 if they are all constructed. That number puts the 4,500 in the nearly fully developed Bishop Ranch into perspective—I would expect to see six story buildings in the plan if not higher to accommodate that number of units within a smaller footprint.
Bishop Ranch has several six-story office buildings that are taller than what would be expected in residential development with the same number of floors. Hacienda’s tallest building is five stories.
For folks interested in learning more, an open house is scheduled from 4-7 p.m. at 2600 Camino Ramon, presumably in the Round House conference center.